Okay, people with autism generally have a harder time in social situations. For a myriad of reasons, a person on the autism spectrum has an impairment of some degree in the areas of communication and socialization.
They are simply uncomfortable with too many people, new environments, too much noise, and lots of other things. Either they try to avoid these situations or suffer through them, sometimes with success, sometimes not.
How do I help my child get through social situations?
Being out in a social situation with your child is not always easy. Oftentimes, they are not in a familiar place, which means they are away from the familiar things that help to calm them down.
What can happen?
Your child can easily become deregulated. They could bounce off the walls with a “high engine” or shut down with a “low engine,” depending on how your child responds to stimuli. This lack of regulation can lead to behaviors.
What can we do?
There are so many different social situations that I’m discussing here. Many are family oriented, like weddings, funerals, or graduation ceremonies. They are situations you want to attend for various reasons. You want your spouse or significant other to be there, and you want your child to be there as well. The desire is for you family to take part in that social situation.
If you bring your child with autism they may have difficulty in this social situation. Yet, you do have options that could help.
First, you can leave that situation if the behaviors become intolerable. It may not be the best solution, but it is an option.
Second, you can remove your child for a period of time. Try to find a quiet place for her to try to regulate her body or calm down from her behaviors. If your child can get more regulated then she may be able to return to the social situation.
Third, you could leave your child at home with the respite person or a babysitter.
Isn’t NOT bringing my child the easiest thing to do?
It is an option, but is it really the easiest?
First of all, I’m not really advocating that it’s the right thing to do. As I’ve stated many times, how is your child supposed to learn how to get through social situations if they’re not practicing or participating in social situations?
Besides that, sometimes you don’t have a choice. Sometimes, you have to bring your child because of circumstances beyond your control.
For example, I had a friend get married a few years ago in Vermont (we live in California). My husband and I arranged a vacation around this wedding.
On the wedding day, we had no alternative but to bring our child with us to the ceremony.
There ended up being issues with our autistic child during the wedding ceremony. It was disruptive. In the end, all three of us had learned something from a bad experience.
What about other social situations?
We have often leaned towards bringing our child with us. He has been to many sporting events and concerts and Autism Speaks meetings. He has been with me when I do typical errands, like the grocery shopping, hundreds of times. He had been out with one of us or both parents.
Have things always gone smoothly? Did I ever have to leave because of my child?
We have left events early because we felt our child was too overwhelmed. I once spent an entire baseball game off in the corner of a stadium not only because of the brutal heat but because I knew my child was just not going to be okay that day.
My husband or I have often taken our child on walks just to get his body moving and give him a break from a confining situation or one that involves socializing in an unfamiliar environment.
My husband and I have learned some tricks over the years through trial and error and the fact that we know our child. We have made mistakes, but we have learned from those mistakes.
To this day, we mostly take our child with us. We believe our child he can get through anything and the more exposure the better. A recent example was a punishment of one day without computer where my child swore he wouldn’t survive. He did. (This was not a social situation but a lesson to our child that he can work through anything.)
Please experiment with taking your child out into the world. It won’t always be pretty because of what you’re asking your child to do and how much you have to prepare. Remember, you are asking your child to do something that makes him uncomfortable. Talk about a social situation before the event. Bring things for your child to do. And, don’t be inflexible. You may have to leave the event early or remove your child for periods of time.
But, the effort will be worth it. For all of you.
To Find Kimberly Kaplan:
www.smashwords.com or Amazon Kindle ebook “A Parents’ Guide to Early Autism Intervention”